Iverson says he is an Olympian

April 11, 2003 at 2:46 AM
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NEW YORK, April 10 (UPI) -- A slip of the tongue by an NBA executive is how the public found out Thursday that Allen Iverson will indeed be an Olympian.

Hours after the slip was made by Stu Jackson, the NBA's Vice President of Basketball Operations, and touched off a cascade of curiosity, Iverson said he was happy to finally have been added to the list of players receiving invitations to join the team.

"It's just a great feeling to be able to represent (the) USA," the superstar guard of the Philadelphia 76ers said after Thursday's win over Boston. "It's an honor and it's something that I will cherish for the rest of my life."

Earlier in the day, during a conference call, Jackson and NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik steadfastly denied that a decision about Iverson had been made either way.

Jackson inadvertently said something that could have been construed as the addition of Iverson to Team USA, but was universally denied by NBA executives.

While NBA Commissioner David Stern was answering a question on a different topic, Jackson, in on the teleconference from Portsmouth, Va., where he was attending a pre-draft camp, blurted out, "And AI made it."

When asked about it, Jackson quickly said, "I wasn't referring to anything."

Iverson often is referred to by his initials.

"I found out really through one of you guys (in the media)," Iverson said. "They heard a buzz. Before the game, I got the buzz about the whole thing. I just crossed my fingers and I really didn't think about it that much because I had a game to play."

USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller would not confirm various reports that Iverson had received an invitation to join Team USA, saying only the organization announces roster updates once the player signs a working contract.

Tim Duncan (San Antonio), Tracy McGrady (Orlando), Jason Kidd (New Jersey), and Ray Allen (Seattle) already have been chosen for the team, which must qualify for the 2004 Olympics by finishing among the top three in the Tournament of the Americas in Puerto Rico in August. Others being considered are Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, and Mike Bibby.

The 6-9 McGrady can play the backcourt, and Kidd, Allen, Bryant, and Bibby are guards, the position played by 6-foot Iverson, a three-time scoring champion, and the quickest player in the NBA.

Jackson also is Chairman of the Men's Selection Committee of USA Basketball, which met Thursday, but during the call, he denied that a final decision has been made on Iverson.

If Iverson indeed is chosen, Team USA would have 12 players, and would not have a need for more than five guards.

There also have been questions about his level of commitment. He has a history of skipping or arriving late to practice, and any player on Team USA must participate in practices, scrimmages, and exhibition games leading up to the international tourneys over the next two summers.

His coach with the 76ers, Larry Brown, repeatedly has said this season that Iverson has been highly professional in his approach.

Brown is the coach of Team USA. He can recommend players, but does not have a vote. Philadelphia General Manager Billy King is a committee member and does have a vote. He recently said he fully supports adding Iverson to the team.

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